Any discussion by proponents of medical marijuana centers around an opinion that there is now momentum to legalize it across the nation. As with all such subjective opinion, the facts underlying it need to be looked at closely. With this in mind, let’s look at what states have legalized medical marijuana and whether there really is any momentum to do so nation wide.
The facts on legalization are clear. 15 states have legalized it. The states are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. On top of this, the District of Columbia has also legalized it. Each jurisdiction has different rules regarding it use. It also goes without saying that the federal government has not legalized.
So, do we have a trend towards legalization or not? The facts suggest we do, but for an odd reason. Of the 15 states, only three and the District of Columbia have legalized it in the last three years. While this shows a spurt of legalization that can be called a trend, the sudden move seems to suggest a different reason than simply providing medicine to patients in need.
The sudden burst in legalization correlates with the Great Recession and, more importantly, states and municipalities suddenly facing huge budget deficits. Consider Arizona as a classic example. The political leanings of the state have been historically very conservative. One needs only consider the immigration laws passed in the state to understand as much. Despite this, the state moved to legalize and tax the medicinal use of marijuana in 2010, a time when huge budget deficits were being carried.
Given this economic influence, the question of whether we can consider medical marijuana legalization to be trend is very much up in the air. The answer appears to be simple. If the economy continues to stagger along and states run big budget deficits, we can expect to see more successful legalization efforts. If the economy improves dramatically, the opposite is probably true. Only time will really tell.
Richard A. Chapo writes about for SanDiegoBusinessLawFirm.com.